Project GRACE is one of many keen to see the library's expansion plans come to life and who see this as a good investment for the town. Some of the reasons why we support the expansion include:
- our library is where groups like us can convene meetings, hold special events, and engage the community in our mission -- but it can be hard to find a suitable date or availability at all because there aren't enough public meeting spaces to meet our community's need. For the past few years before Covid, Project GRACE had to look outside the library in order to continue to hold our "Food for Thought & Action" convenings at the library because there just wasn't availability in the modestly-sized conference room. Scarborough as a whole has very few public meeting spaces, and the library's expansion plan offers several flexible options that would help the community learn, collaborate, and work together.
- our library is quick to help Project GRACE collect school supplies, nonperishable food for the pantry, holiday gifts and more for our neighbors -- they always find a prominent place for our donation boxes -- even it means shifting something else aside for a short time. Behind the scenes, the staff offices are cramped and filled with book carts piled high with program materials, essential supplies, and at times even dozens of donated school backpacks or boxes brimming with holiday presents for kids!
- neighbors can access resources they might not have at home or be able to otherwise afford, including free wi-fi, free museum passes, sports and science gear to borrow, etc. (basketballs are in a book cart by the front desk!). During very cold or very hot spells, the library is a warming/cooling center, helping neighbors save on their energy bills and find solace in the company of others. Project GRACE often leaves gift cards or other items like a borrow cell phone at the library so Project GRACE recipients can get something from us quickly and discreetly and safely.
- our library helps Project GRACE identify and meet needs in the community, too. The librarians often spot when a person is lonely, needs services, has inadequate clothing or shoes, or is homeless or hungry. The library helps us help more neighbors. Some of our neighbors would not have come forward to seek help, if it were not for the encouragement of the librarians who see them regularly at a place where they feel comfortable. However, there are no quiet corners for a private conversation, and the phone for public use is in the entrance lobby where anyone can hear the call.
- Project GRACE could do more, if there were more space in the library to meet with our neighbors who need extra help signing up for LiHEAP fuel assistance, meet with our volunteers to discuss their circumstances confidentially, come to a forum to learn about available services. A modest space set aside where a senior could get a snack or cup of coffee or cold drink of water would be a welcome addition.
- our librarians have done their homework, and Project GRACE has looked closely at their plans and agrees that the library has worked carefully with the town and stakeholders like Project GRACE. We feel the staff, particularly, director Nancy Crowell, have listened carefully to the needs and wishes of the community, have sought expert advice, and have been thoughtful in their approach to developing plans for expansion - they're work is the culmination of many years of work to position the library to meet the needs of the future as well as the present.
- our library welcomes everyone - but it needs more space to do more. When the library was built in 1989, there were 12,000 residents of Scarborough - today there are more than 21,000 and by 2020, we are projected to have upwards of 27,000 residents. The library is undersized for a growing town. Even with the proposed expansion, the new library will be modestly sized compared to similar communities.
These are few of our reasons for supporting the library's expansion plans. The library has been serving as our de facto community center, it's a welcoming place, and it's located where it's easy for most people to come together to learn, find connections, and be active and engaged in our community. Councilors, we sincerely hope you will, as we do, offer your unequivocal and enthusiastic support for placing the library's bond on the November 2022 ballot. Let the voters decide.